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Will Roberts: An Actor on the Rise

I recently got the chance to do an interview on Will Roberts’ “Weekly Telegram”. We talked about comedy, acting, the industry, and our take on all these. Now I bring you an interview with Will, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for several years now. His film “The Killer” ( O Matador) is on Netflix right now, his short film “Signal” has just won a film festival award, and he’s recently wrapped up filming the new movie he’s in called “iBot”.

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Will, congrats on all your recent success! It seems like overnight the stars have aligned in your favor, but we both know all these things are a culmination of years of hard work. What prepared you for the successes you’re seeing now?

Well, nothing really has prepared me for this other than the trials and tribulations of being a professional actor. I’ve been doing this for 30-something years, and the basic training ground of an actor and performer is rejection. However, I believe the attitude that comes with time ultimately becomes, it’s about damn time… and I’m ready for this.

This is the absolute hardest business to be in because you’re constantly looking and then even when you get the opportunity, in some cases, you’re kind of treated like you’re not really that important. I don’t mean that to be rude or disrespectful to anybody in the technical end of film and TV because they go through a lot of people every single day, so they have to have a bit of a hard shell finish in order for them to be able to keep sane. And many of the ones I know have not.

The only thing I can tell you that has really trained me to be ready for success is to make sure all my tools that I have are honed for not only instantaneous success in getting a role, but also longevity of knowing how to keep up the momentum. Hope that answers your question.

You act, draw, have a radio show, perform stunts, gun tricks, etc. Do you think you diversity of talents has helped make you a complete artist/performer?

Well, let me clarify. To begin with, you mentioned that I draw. I’m assuming you’re referring to my daily screen cartoon, I have a little confession to make. See, I started the daily screen cartoons purely because I was writing a one- or two-page humor column for many years for online newspapers and realized that our attention spans, because of internet and social media, are that of a nap.

I created the daily screen cartoon because it was literally two panels with my best assets; the reactions on my face and some quick comments for people to read and as I said, quickly move along.

Unfortunately, nowadays a very good portion of our society, including myself, doesn’t get a chance to read extensively—that’s an issue, but I’m part of that.

Here is my confession: I’m extremely savvy when it comes to technology. I shoot, edit, host my own segments, and I actually don’t draw at all. If you looked at me drawing a stick figure, it would basically look like a pile of sticks. I can’t draw even if I trace. So what I did was, I went online and came up with the idea to do cartoons.

Obviously it’s too expensive to be able to hire an artist to do this and time frame-wise I needed them to be daily, move quickly, and be ready for print or the internet. I ended up getting two apps, one to make myself into a cartoon—a good-looking representation, and number two, turn it into a comic strip. My confession is I can’t draw, but I’m technologically very savvy.

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As you know, there are ups and downs in any career, especially entertainment. What do you do in those “down times” and what keeps you motivated?

Well, one of the things that keeps me motivated constantly, and I don’t believe in down times… We might have some emotionally, but my best analogy for this would be: if a person is running a marathon and at some point they get extremely tired because they’re doing five-minute miles, I’ve never done that but there’s really nothing different about achieving a goal. However, you have to be crystal clear that you have a goal that isn’t something that changes every day, unless it changes in that specific arena. Meaning, I’ve always been an entertainer. Now, I may not have been an actor all the time, but I started off as a professional magician. I went from that into radio, from radio I went into writing, from writing I went into hosting on air. The point is that I never left the arena of entertainment.

I did have a couple of jobs. As a matter fact, before I was 25, I think I had 50 jobs. And that was purely because every time my job would tell me I couldn’t go to rehearsal the next day, they wanted me to work instead, I would say okay, what’s important to me? Unfortunately that job making minimum wage and working for someone else didn’t allow me to progress my goal, so I left.

So in answer to your question, you do need to plan, you do need a motivation. If you don’t have a plan and a motivation and not necessarily in that order, you will get to the point in the marathon when you stop because you are not motivated enough to know that you have to, and I repeat this phrase, you have to be doing what you’re doing because there’s nothing else!

I spent many a days, many years on and off in my car crying, screaming, and saying why not me?! If I fell victim to that, I would now be, maybe, working at a radio station making no money, or I would be working at a car dealership. And I never want my life to be like that. So what motivates me is what I passionately want to do.

Really quick story: Working with Cirque du Soleil, I’m rehearsing day in and day out. There are 85 artists in the show, and it’s a really popular show. I’m working day and night and we always had to rehearse. Well, during my rehearsal I would be spinning my ropes, spinning my guns and hats, dancing around, headset on, music going like every day matters and every day is passionate—because it is.

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What kind of advice would you give new entertainers? What about folks like myself who have been plying their craft/s for 20-plus years?

Find your strengths, know what they are, and work on your weaknesses.

Look around at our landscape right now and realize that, for example, the award that we got for “Signal” the short film–The film was shot on an iPhone 5S by Diogo Morgado and myself, and we created this while we were working on the Netflix film. This short film has given me an awful lot of recognition and it’s something that we created on our own.

I tell people this all the time because you can get 100, easy, audition notices via LA casting, Actors Access, Backstage, IMDB pro, Casted, talent.com, all these places will give you tons of audition notices to respond to. A lot of them are little or no pay and a lot of actors go, “I want to do these because it will help further my career; I’ll be able to get a demo put together.” However, I say this to you, and if you are telling yourself that you can’t produce your own stuff because you’re thinking, “Well, I’m an actor so I’m going to act,” then I’m here to tell you you’re in the wrong business.

Now, if this was 1985 when I started, that would be different; because the equipment and the tape and all of the editing was extremely difficult to get a hold of without having a good portion of money. But, nowadays look at what’s happening. People are producing and getting their stuff on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, blah blah blah. If you can’t shoot or edit, learn it, and if you cannot learn it—you just can’t do it, then find someone else to group with you and produce things.

Make sure you’re doing the right stuff. Your job as an actor or performer is not only to get the job, it is also to keep your ear to the ground and figure out the pulses and what the industry wants right now. It also helps your odds because you have a lot of content out there that people can see.

Social media is another avenue. If you don’t have good social media and you’re not engaging, and don’t tell me you don’t know how to do it. Hey, I didn’t either.

But, a lot of the time, every day I spend eight hours, if not more, per day researching what’s important out there in the industry; how to get in there, how to get the opportunities. And then when I get there, finally get the opportunity, this is where the training and discipline comes in knowing how to get the job.

All these things are important. It’s not just about getting a job, it’s about getting yourself educated to when you finally do get the job.

You’re a family man as well, how do you balance that with your career?

How do I balance my home life with my wife and two beautiful kids that are three and seven years old? It’s very difficult because I am gone a lot doing gigs or filming auditions. But, one of the things you probably won’t expect me to say is you have to make sure that either (1) you are never in a relationship until you get to a status to where you feel as though you are successful enough to maintain a wife and family or husband and family, or (2) you have to remain alone for the rest of your life.

I know that seems like a funny answer and it is. But, the fact is that (I don’t know if I said this in the beginning), haahaa, this is the most difficult profession in the world, and that’s one of the reasons why. Because sometimes you’re faced with opportunities that may say we need you for six months. We need you for your contract in Bangladesh, and you have to be able to either say no, thank you and feel confident about that because of your family, or you have to be able to pull up roots either by yourself or with your family. I moved to that place.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend that at all for a family because that’s difficult for the kids, but again, full disclosure: In the beginning of your relationship it’s going to help you avoid divorce. And I can honestly say that I’ve only been married once, never divorced, and two kids are all the kids I have.

Anything you’d like to share with our readers, funny story, favorite gig you’ve had, etc.

I think one of the stories it comes to my mind as I was shooting a Bollywood film which, by the way, I know there aren’t a lot of Americans that can say that they have been in a Bollywood film.

I was one of the supporting actors, it was through Disney and was called ABCD2. Apparently it has broken all the records in the box office and is the highest grossing Bollywood film, that’s pretty cool for my first Bollywood movie.

I flew into Mumbai, India, and absolutely love the place! It’s very cool and hope to go back again because it is a franchise movie. I have my fingers crossed that they will talk to me about returning because I believe they enjoyed my performance.

It was a Bollywood/Disney film and shot in 3-D. The only thing missing was smell-a-vision.

I’m in there and they’re talking to me with the director while I get into make up, costume, etc., and there’s about 600 extras that they have sitting in chairs all around. That’s when I make my announcements to the dance teams who come up. They were there in this whole gigantic sound studio which was all on a giant green screen. This basically means that all the walls in the whole place were done in green screen to show it like a Las Vegas casino, and it was very well done. I made one of my announcements (lines) then lo and behold the director comes up and says, “That was fantastic Will, let’s do it again.”

Folks, we’re talking there are 600 extras there, so the next day they replicated exactly the same scene and we shot it again, so there’s my interesting story.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview and best of luck on your future endeavors!

Folks check out “The Killer” (O Matador) on Netflix. “Signal” was shown at the Savannah Comedy Revue on Dec 13 in a special NSAEN Film Festival screening and has already won an award in another festival. Next March/April keep your eyes open for “iBot”.

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